Sikh terror suspects allowed to stay in UK

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Two Sikh militant leaders accused of planning terrorist atrocities in India have been allowed to stay in Britain, despite being branded a threat to national security.

Two Sikh militant leaders accused of planning terrorist atrocities in India have been allowed to stay in Britain, despite being branded a threat to national security.

Mukhtiar Singh and Paramjit Singh were given leave to remain in the UK after a special immigration appeals tribunal ruled there were "substantial grounds" for believing they would be tortured if they returned to India.

The commission's ruling is an embarrassing setback for Jack Straw. The Home Secretary had attempted to deport the men on the basis that they posed "a danger to national security" by allegedly orchestrating terrorist attacks in India from their base in the UK.

After the decision yesterday, the Home Office said it was considering lodging an appeal. "We're considering our options in light of the decision. There are rights to appeal against the judgment, but we haven't taken any decision on that front yet," a spokesman said.

Despite granting the men indefinite leave to remain in Britain, the commission rejected their application for asylum because of their close links to a militant separatist movement seeking to establish an independent Sikh state in the Indian Punjab.

The commission said their conduct excluded them from the protection of the Refugee Convention "because there are serious reasons for considering that each had been engaged in terrorist activity".

However, Iqbal Singh, director of the human rights group Punjabis in Britain, said criminal suspects were routinely imprisoned without trial or held for months awaiting court judgments. Mr Singh stressed that he did not support terrorism, but added: "They would have been mistreated. It's good they've got exceptional leave to remain."

Ian Burnett QC, appearing for Mr Straw, had earlier told the commission that Mukhtiar Singh, 27, had entered the UK illegally in 1995 but continued to play "a crucial role in the development of a series of conspiracies to carry out terrorist attacks in India".

He was allegedly involved with a violent faction of the International Sikh Youth Federation, a militant group based in the UK that supports Paramjit Singh Panjwar, leader of a paramilitary group operating from Pakistan, the Khalistan Commando Force.

Mr Burnett said that in September 1998, MI5 identified Mukhtiar as a co-organiser of a shipment of 15kg of high explosive, detonators, timers, and other weapons to Sikh militants on the sub-continent.

Paramjit Singh, 26, also born in the Indian Punjab, entered the UK illegally between 1994 and 1996. While working as an itinerant preacher, he was involved with the same faction and also allegedly conspired with Mukhtiar to ship the explosives.

The commission, headed by Mr Justice Potts, made clear it felt very uncomfortable giving them the right to stay, but was obliged under international law to uphold their appeal. Its judgment noted: "Law abiding citizens of the UK might reasonably feel disquiet about a state of affairs which permits international terrorists proved to be a danger to national security to remain here," it said.

"We can only say that this state of affairs follows upon Article 3 of the European Convention, the Secretary of State's acceptance of that Convention and its consequences and the evidence we have heard in relation to the risks faced by the appellants in the event of their being returned to India.

"In future cases we would earnestly urge the Secretary of State to consider whether the type of material he relied upon in these appeals is sufficient to do justice to the case."

Their original applications for asylum, the commission was told, were refused in August last year. Both men were detained last November.